'Criminal Proceedings Should Not Become A Weapon Of Harassment' – Supreme Court Quashes Criminal Case Involving Civil Dispute
A two-judge Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari while observing that the charge sheet filed against the Appellant was vague, held that the dispute was of a civil nature but was given the color of criminal offence.
An appeal was preferred against the judgment of Allahabad High Court which had dismissed the application of the Appellant under Section 482 CrPC filed for quashing of the proceedings instituted under Sections 420, 467, 468, and 471 of IPC.
The Appellant's main contentions were – i) That the case lodged was false and baseless; ii) Chargesheet was submitted without proper investigation and evidence; and iii) No prima facie case was disclosed against the Appellant.
In this case, an FIR was registered against the Power of Attorney holder (Applicant No.1) who died subsequently and the purchaser of property (Appellant) from the Power of Attorney holder. The Respondents had argued before the Court that the application of the Appellant under Section 482 CrPC was not maintainable since the High Court had already disposed of the Writ Petition seeking similar reliefs and that the said judgment was not challenged by the Appellant and had thus assumed finality.
The Court considered the question whether the FIR disclosed the commission of any criminal offence as against the Appellant.
The Apex Court while noting the contents of the charge sheet filed against the Appellant opined that the charge sheet was totally vague. "There is not even a whisper in the charge-sheet of what transpired from the investigation against the Appellant herein," the Court held.
The Court also examined the FIR and asserted, "Even though an FIR need not contain every detail, an offence has to be made out in the FIR itself. It is the case of the Private Respondents that Bela Rani has no title. Bela Rani executed a false Power of Attorney in favour of Rajan Kumar (since deceased). Alternatively, the Power of Attorney, in itself, was a forged document."
The Court while observing that the FIR does not disclose the commission of any criminal offence, held, "criminal proceedings are being taken as recourse to as a weapon of harassment against the purchaser."
"There can be no doubt that jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. should be used sparingly for the purpose of preventing abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. Whether a complaint discloses criminal offence or not depends on the nature of the allegation and whether the essential ingredients of a criminal offence are present or not has to be judged by the High Court," the Court held.
The Bench opined, "There can be no doubt that a complaint disclosing civil transactions may also have a criminal texture. The High Court has, however, to see whether the dispute of a civil nature has been given colour of criminal offence. In such a situation, the High Court should not hesitate to quash the criminal proceedings as held by this Court in Paramjeet Batra (supra) extracted above."
"The given set of facts may make out a civil wrong as also a criminal offence. Only because a civil remedy is available may not be a ground to quash criminal proceedings. But as observed above, in this case, no criminal offence has been made out in the FIR read with the Charge-Sheet so far as this Appellant is concerned. The other accused Rajan Kumar has died," the Court observed.
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeal and quashed the crime case against the Appellant.